Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

And here's a photo of an ambulatory pumpkin pedaling a kindergartener. SCARY!

A Mighty Load

Yesterday was our CSA pickup day. I have endeavored to pick up our locally-grown produce via bicycle as much as possible, and yesterday was my biggest challenge in two years.

It was turkey delivery day.

We had a 11+ lb. turkey to pick up, in addition to the squash, potatoes, beets, carrots and other various 40lbs of vegetables. I am sure that the total weight of the load was approaching 60 pounds.

As you can see in the photo, I've rigged up my own cam straps for the xtracycle and used them to put a cooler in place to keep our fowl from thawing. In addition, I had three grocery bags of produce and two dozen eggs. The eggs rode safely up front and the grocery bags were on the side where they belong.

The high center of gravity of the turkey made things a bit more wiggly than they would otherwise have been, but the ride home was uneventful. Lots of uphill, which was very slow, but no problem. I'm glad that Mark at Hiawatha suggested that I upgrade the brakes when we added the xtracycle. I'm not sure the old brakes would have stopped this rig.

I am delighted with this machine and look forward to summer picnics, camping trips and continued daily chores with it.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The New Bulldog

Wednesday night the new Bulldog opened and I, along with many of the MSP-based beerfolk, were there to welcome Matt and Co. latest into the world.

It's a big space with a big bar and many, many good beers. For such a large place, the Mens room is oddly undersized. One sitter and one stander don't seem to be adequate, but time will tell. It's an airy, well-lit space with heaps of windows and nice wooden floors. For such a large room, it's pretty welcoming, but I could imagine that when empty it'll seem really cavernous.

I like working with the Bulldog people. They are loyal and they keep beer on tap long enough to find a clientele, if a clientele can be found. Pete, who manages the bar at the Lyndale location, is a terrific guy who has turned many people onto great beer. Chris and Amy at NE are hardworking, focused folks who are always pushing to bring the best beer and food to their customers. Kelly, who works at Lyndale, put in a lot of overtime helping to get things ready at Lowertown, and her attention to detail shows. Matt, who is the ringleader of this whole bunch, just sort of lets his people do their thing. It all hangs together and I thank them for their good, hard work. They are all wonderful to work with and I wish them all the best!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Today's Pannier Is Full

First the good things: I made a trip to my favorite beer store in probably the world. The Four Firkins is a little shop owned by a relative newcomer to the beer world, but he's doing very good things for the local beer scene. He takes very good care of his beer, he has lots of good advice and he's a very personable guy. If you live in MSP, hie yourself down there.

I scooped up a Boulevard Smokestack Saison-Brett, among other beers. I feel that Boulevard Saison-Brett is the finest US-brewed interpretation of a Belgian beer out there. Seek it out if you can. Be prepared for strange and wonderful aromas and flavors. "Brett" is short for brettanomyces, a wild yeast strain that give slightly sour, funky flavors to beer. It gets stronger over time and is very distinctive. It's sort of the beer equivalent to blue cheese.

So the pannier was literally full of beer today, which is good.

But it's also figuratively full of not-so-good things. Elden Nelson, of Fat Cyclist blog fame, writes one of the best blogs—hell, best ANYTHING—out there. His wife Susan is struggling with advanced cancer and, despite awe-inspiring effort and force of will, is not likely to recover. Nelson has written with tremendous humor, humility and insight during Susan's illness and has drawn me, my wife and several thousand other people into his life. He seems to be the kind of guy I would like to know, and his pain radiates from his most recent blog entry in waves. This has occupied my thoughts today and I wish for him and his family all kinds of peace and happiness and a hope that their situation resolves with as much grace as possible.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Newest Steed

In 1994 or 1995, my wife and I were living in South Minneapolis. Somebody broke into our basement storage area and stole a bunch of stuff, most notably our GT mountain bikes. The insurance man bought us new bikes just before he canceled our policy. Apparently, insurance companies like the "take your money forever" part of their gig but not the "give some back in case you lose some shit" part. To this day, and forever, I will feel like Allstate is run by a bunch of number-crunching monkeys who care more about their bottom line than providing actually useful service. Revolutionary, no?

I digress.

The bikes that our insurance man bought us were Treks. For me a copper colored 950 and for my wife a teal blue 930. We still have the bikes but have not ridden them in fly mountain bike style for some many years. So I converted them to upright-but-not-uptight city-style bikes last autumn. I get much use of mine and enjoy it greatly.

A few weeks ago, the good people at Hiawatha Cyclery installed an xtracycle conversion on that bike and now it's my favorite ride. The very first day I owned it I went to Target and bought the biggest package of paper towels they sell. Just 'cause I could. It was sweet swerving down the road with a cubic yard of Quicker Picker Upper hanging off the side. A dude in a pickup honked and waved and, get this you biker folk, smiled.

Plus which, earlier in the day, on my way home from Le Grand Hiawatha, a chick on a Cross Check actually laid down a "nice rig" on me. First ever, if you don't count my wife or 5 year-old son. Pretty sweet, yo.

I like the bike not only because it hauls much in the way of goods, but also seems to transport other folks a place where they are able to lighten up and share their joy. Whodah thunkit?

This Time It May Stick

Dear Gentle Reader,

I've started five or six blogs over the years, only to kill them dead before hitting the "Publish Post" button.

Two things have always stick in my craw about starting my own blog.

1. Who in hell would want to read my ramblings?
2. Why in hell would I want to write any of my ramblings down?

But then I started reading other people's blogs and—having noticed that some of them actually are fun, helpful or insightful—decided to man up and push that "Publish Post" button this time.

In my day job I am an importer of beer. Some very good beers. I may write about them or I may write about some other aspect of beer or the business of importing and selling same. It's a big area and it might be interesting.

The title "A Full Pannier" stems from my interest in bicycles and bicycling and hints at my particular viewpoint as a cyclist. You won't find discussion of racing or racing-style bikes here, my friends. Nothing could bore me more. You might find that this here pannier is full of food or beer, or maybe the spoils of a hunting/gathering expedition to Target or a local thrift store.

The point is: the pannier is always full and there is always something to say about it's contents.